Matale is a district capital in the very centre of the island, 25 km north of Kandy, at the northern end of the higlands. Many travellers cross Matale on their way from Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa or Sigiriya to Kandy. The spice gardens along the mainroad A9 are visited quite often. The Aluvihara rock monastery and Buddhist scriptures museum is situated outside the city and close to the spice garden area, too.
The most prominent building in the town centre, however, is a Hindu temple. It is close to the main road. So you will easily recognize its large tower. It’s a tower above the main gateway. These tall towers exuberantly decorated with hundreds of sculptures of divine beings are called Gopurams. Gopurams are the most characteristic feature of Tamil Hindu temples in southern India and Sri Lanka. The temple in Matara is the best example for such Gopuram architecture in the interior of the country. By the way, “Gopuram” is a Sanskrit term meaning “cow city”.
The main Hindu temple in Matale is dedicated to Muthumariamman. The goddess Mariamman (speak “Muri-um-man”) is very popular among Tamils in India and Sri Lanka. “Amman” The prefix “Muthu”, literally meaning “pearl”, is an honorific title, similar to “Sri”. The last part of the name, “Amman” simply means “mother”. "Mari" means "rain". The name recalls that this deity was originally an ancient Tamil fertility goddess. For today’s devotees, Mariamman is as a helper against all febrile diseases. In particularin she is the smallpox goddess in southern India.
In Tamil Nadu in southern India Mariamman is worshipped in temples in rural areas more than in urban town centres. The priests in Mariamman temples are usually not Brahmins, this is a indicating that this goddess has a local Tamil tradition and is not a pan-Indian deity, though Mariamman is integretad in the Brahmanical pantheon as one of the many manifestations of Shiva’s consort Parvati.
The Mariamman temple in Matale was damaged during the most severe anti-Tamil riots in 1983, but afterwards it has been restored magnificently.
By the way, there is a Muthumariamman temple in Central Europe, too. It is the main Hindu temple in Hannover, capital of Lower-Saxony in Germany.
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